Petaling Jaya (The Star/ANN) - The dire shortage of maids affecting some 35,000 families has taken a turn for the worse with Cambodia springing a surprise ban on its citizens working as domestic helpers in Malaysia.
This comes three days after Indonesia announced that a moratorium on sending its maids had not been lifted pending a proper framework being put in place.
A Reuters report from Phnom Penh yesterday said Prime Minister Hun Sen made the decision after expressing disappointment with alleged incidents of beatings and rape of Cambodian maids by their Malaysian employers.
The report quoted Cambodia's Community Legal Education Centre, which helps abused domestic workers, as saying at least three maids were killed in Malaysia, and two raped and kept in isolation. Their passports were also withheld by their employers.
The Association of Cambodian Recruiting Agencies president An Bunhak said it would uphold the government order.
"The Ministry of Labour will enforce what the Prime Minister has said,¿ An Bunhak said, adding that about 50,000 maids had sought work in Malaysia since 2009.
Cambodian recruitment agencies had earlier this year decided not to send maids to Kuwait after complaints of abuse by employers there.
The ban has major implications on Malaysian families as many employers turned to Cambodian maids following Indonesia's freeze on their domestic workers.
Malaysia National Association of Employment Agencies (Pikap) president Datuk Raja Zulkepley Dahalan said the newly-imposed ban was "very bad news¿.
He said agencies had taken a beating during the maid shortage crisis with quite a number being forced to shut down.
"This doesn't only affect employers but agencies as well,¿ he said. "We have fewer than 150 active agencies now compared to over 300 previously,¿ he said, adding that the current maid supply was at an "alarming¿ level.
Raja Zulkepley said employers should be prepared to source for maids from the Philippines and not put too much pressure on agencies.
Malaysian Maid Employers Association (Mama) said Cambodia's decision was "very harsh and drastic¿.
Its president Engku Ahmad Fauzi Engku Muhsein said Cambodia should focus on implementing better protection for its maids, not issue a total clampdown.
"The majority of employers take care of their maids very well,¿ he said. "This decision will just make the maid situation worse in Malaysia.¿
Engku Ahmad Fauzi said Malaysian employers should be educated and made to change their mindset so that maids would be viewed as "part of the family¿.
He said local authorities took reports of maid abuse seriously and had been quick to take action against errant employers.